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Is Intermittent Fasting Putting Your Health at Risk?

May 22, 2024

Many diets focus on the types of foods and nutrients you consume, but intermittent fasting is a type of diet that centers around when you eat. Some research has shown that this time-restricted dieting method results in weight loss. However, a recent study by the American Heart Association (AHA) revealed that those following a time-restricted intermittent fasting plan have a 91 percent higher risk of death from heart disease. 

What exactly is intermittent fasting? 

There are many different ways to follow an intermittent fasting diet, but one of the most popular approaches is known as 16/8. This approach involves eating during the same eight-hour period each day and fasting for the other 16 hours. Some researchers say that during the hours you fast, your body exhausts its sugar stores and starts burning fat. “Prolonging the period that your body burns fat can result in weight loss,” said Rebecca Dawson, D.O., a primary care physician and obesity medicine fellow with Inspira Health’s Bariatric Surgery program. “However, this approach to dieting can be unsafe if not handled correctly.” 

What are the risks of time-restricted eating? 

In a study of over 20,000 adults, the AHA found that those who followed an 8-hour time-restricted eating schedule were at a significantly higher risk of death from heart disease. “This study ultimately found that compared with people who follow a standard eating schedule across 12-16 hours per day, limiting food intake to 8 hours per day was not associated with longevity,” said Dr. Dawson. “While previous research has found that time-restricted diets improve blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels, we don’t yet understand the long-term health effects of intermittent fasting.” 

What are the best ways to lose weight? 

If you’re looking for safe and effective ways to lose weight, it’s best to talk with your doctor or health care provider. “Whether you’re limiting the number of hours you eat or not, it’s important to follow a healthy diet with plenty of whole foods,” says Dr. Dawsone. “This diet may look different from person to person, which is why your physician or a dietitian can help determine the best plan for your needs.” 

If you’re concerned about your heart health, the AHA recommends

  • Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables 
  • Choosing whole grains over refined grains 
  • Choosing healthy sources of protein, like legumes, nuts, fish and low-fat or fat-free dairy products
  • Use olive oil instead of animal fats such as lard
  • Minimizing intake of ultra-processed foods and drinks and those with added sugars 
  • Preparing foods with little or no salt
  • Reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption

Inspira’s medical weight management program can help guide you in the right direction for your health. Services include nutrition counseling, primary care, physician-referred exercise programs, and bariatric surgery.

Topics: Primary Care, Health and Wellness, Nutrition